Tech Phobia: Marketers Are Anxious About AI And Machine Learning

Tech Phobia: Marketers Are Anxious About AI And Machine Learning

by , Columnist, September 11, 2020

Email marketers are becoming increasingly dependent on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). But are they really comfortable with it?

The answer is no, assuming that email pros are like other team members in the marketing department. That’s the main takeaway from The Pivot Report, a study by RR Donnelley (RRD). 

First off, 71% of marketers acknowledge that their company has had to abandon or “pivot” from its original 2020 marketing plans. 

That’s no big surprise.

And brands are seizing the moment — 83% say they are effective at engaging with customers at the exact time in their lives they are ready for marketing content, and 38% say they are very much so. The overall total is up from 49% in 2019.

What is startling is how many professionals are troubled by new technologies. 

For starters, 30% are very concerned that the emphasis on AI and/or ML may limit their personal growth, up from 2% last year. And 29% are somewhat concerned, versus 12% in 2019.  

By contrast, only 15% say they’re not worried at all, down from 47% last year. 

Younger people are more concerned — 42% say they are very concerned, while 27% say they are somewhat concerned.  Only 12% of people age 41 or older are very concerned, and 27% say they are somewhat nervous. 

Overall, 38% agree that the growing dependency on AI and ML will definitely “negate the human qualities of creativity,” and 30% say it probably will. 

A mere 19% say it probably won’t, and 5% say it definitely will not. 

Think about that when your group is spitting out dynamic triggered emails without any human intervention. 

Again, the younger age cohort is more like to see a definite threat as a result of AI and ML — 63% say they are anxious, versus 12% of the 41-plus group.

RRD conducted similar research at the end of 2019, but it decided to re-run the study to gauge the impact of COVID-19. It surveyed 250 U.S.-based marketers in mid-2020, the same number as last year.  

The result? It found that many organizations are struggling with advanced technologies. 

For instance, 23% say data management keeps them up at night, an increase from 18% in 2019.  

And 18% worry about analytics, a hike from 11% last year.

And there has been a boost in those sweating about creative—from 11% to 17%.

On the opposite side, only 10% have nightmares about campaign execution. Last year, 22% did. Similarly, 8% are troubled about research, down from 11% in 2019. 

Asked what they would most like to invest in, 23% say data management (from 11% in 2019). And 12% cite creative (a hike from 9%). Also, 12% are looking at a rise in media planning spend (from 5% in the last survey). 

Still, investment choices seem to have gone down in most of the other areas, including analytics. 

How do these marketers feel about consumers? Admiration and trust top the list, as they did last year, although the number has declined from 50% to 41%. 

But 17% now feel anticipation — concern about setting expectations — an increase from 5% last time around. 

How do you feel? What is keeping you up at night? Search & Performance Marketing Daily


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